All posts by Deardra Shuler

Deardra Shuler has experience in theatre, music, concert promotion, television and publishing. She was affiliated with the Negro Ensemble Company and is a former manager of the children’s theatre,”TADA.” She has produced and promoted concerts in Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and Radio City Music Hall. Ms. Shuler is the former Editor and Managing Editor of three New York City minority newspapers. Presently, she is the Entertainment Editor of The Black Star News. As a freelance writer she writes for several New York City newspapers; including the Examiner, Amsterdam News and Eurweb. Deardra has columns in Sweden and in California. She is the former PR chairman for the FESPACO film festival in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Africa, and is presently program manager for where she also hosts her own show "Topically Yours."
Maggie Baird's real life son, Finneas O'Connell stars with his mother in Life Inside Out

People of Note: Life Inside Out at the Quad

Life Inside Out

Life Inside Out

*When actress Maggie Baird, writer Lori Nasso and director Jill D’Agnenica put their heads together to make and produce a film about a middle aged woman named Laura who wants to realize her creative dreams in the midst of growing financial problems, little did they know they would experience the same risks, hard work and exhilaration via the making of their film, “Life Inside Out.”

This independent film made on a shoe string budget has all the appeal one looks for in a film. It is well made and it tells a story every day people can relate to. Even though it seems film distributors did not agree, thus forcing the filmmakers to take alternative routes to get the film into theaters. Presently it is being featured for a limited engagement until January 22nd at the Quad Cinema, located at 34 West 13th St., between 5th and 6th Aves., in NYC.

There was a Q&A held after the movie by interviewer Richard Skipper that gave audience members the opportunity to speak to the actors and filmmakers.

Many of us have heard the expression “Art Imitates Life,” and that adage can be applied to the making of this lovely Indy film, Life Inside Out, which became a family affair with Baird’s real life son and husband playing roles in the movie. Baird’s own son Finneas O’Connell plays her son, Shane in the movie as does her real life husband, Patrick O’Connell. Patrick plays the role of Skip, the music store owner who opens the door to a new life for Maggie’s character Laura, by referring her to an open mike club, where Laura realizes her dream and eventually helps her moody 15-year old son, Shane, do the same.

Maggie Baird in Life Inside Out.

Maggie Baird in Life Inside Out.

Written by Maggie Baird and Lori Nasso, the film reveals a typical family, with Laura the frustrated mother of three boys and loving partner to husband, Mike, (David Cowfill). Mike is barely able to make ends meet and needs Laura to help pull the weight. He loves Laura’s songwriting and singing talent and is supportive when she picks up her guitar again after years of putting it aside to raise a family. But he really needs Laura to supplement the family income. Unemployed, Laura does whatever she can to bring in money. She bakes and helps her sister with her photo book scrap making business, even though she hates it. Singing is the only thing that allows Laura to grab her moment in the sun.

Laura’s two sports loving sons take after their father, but 15 year old Shane, is cut from another cloth and takes after his mother. Misunderstood by his family and peers, Shane, is a moody teen in search of self, just as is middle aged mother is also in search of her own self. She gets the chance to rediscovery her talent after answering an open mike ad in the record store that leads her to a club run by Sam played by Goh Nakamura. It is there that Laura blossoms and hones her craft and it is here she and Shane share common interests, strengthening their bond.

Cast members include William Dennis Hunt, Roscoe Brandon, Orson Ossman, Joe Hart, Emma Bell, Yogi Lonich, Xenia, Alexandra Wilson, Emily Jordan, Kalilah Harris, John Bain and Frank Gangarossa, et al.

Maggie Baird's real life son, Finneas O'Connell stars with his mother in Life Inside Out

Maggie Baird’s real life son, Finneas O’Connell stars with his mother in Life Inside Out

Laura’s life does not change substantially but it becomes satisfying and along the way she sees positive things about herself and her family that turns her Life Inside Out.

I recommend this movie and implore movie goers to  implore movie goers to catch Life Inside Out before it leaves the theater. It will be at Cinema Quad until January 22nd. Also, non-New Yorkers who wish to see the movie can write Netflix and ask they include Life Inside Out in their cache of movies.

Deardra Shuler is a well published journalist who has profiled celebrities and written about people of note for many years. In addition to her column at, she is the host of her radio show “Topically Yours” on Interested parties can acquire info regarding Deardra through,, Facebook and Google. Contact her via: [email protected].

The Duprees2015a

People of Note: Doo-Wop Returns to Lehman Center in 2015

The Duprees2015a

The Duprees

*Doo-wop is a genre of harmonizing vocals that came out of cities like New York, Philadelphia, Newark and Detroit, et al. A music style birthed out of African American neighborhoods initially in the 1940s, Doo-wop gained popularity in the 1950s and early ’60s, even attracting Italian groups who shared a love for the music. Built upon vocal harmony, doo-wop consisted of simple lyrics, beats and harmonies, often done a cappella. Currently, doo-wop lovers will have the opportunity to hear the styling of such well known denizens of the doo-wop genre such as The Duprees, the Platters, Barbara Harris and the Toys, Larry Chance and the Earls, the Belmonts and Ragdoll who will be performing on Saturday, January 24th at 8:00 p.m., at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, located on the Lehman College campus, at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx.


Barbara Harris and the Toys

I caught up with Tony Testa of the Duprees who talked about his sojourn with the group. “I have vivid memories of the early days of Doo-wop. I got involved with the Duprees around 1964 or ‘65 as a guitarist and led the band for a number of years. That is how I got to know the Duprees originally” recalled Testa. “Back then, there were a couple of things that made a perfect blend at the time. There was the fact that these groups had a wonderful knowledge of and appreciation for the music that preceded them; music that came out of the 40s and big band era. The other thing is their hook-up with George Paxton who was the owner of Coed Records. Mr. Paxton came from that big band era so he was the one who integrated that wonderful blend of music reminiscent of the Glenn Miller orchestra behind the youthful exuberant vocals of that time. That melding was so unique it still has great appeal today. It is wonderful to see the faces of the audiences today reacting to music which is over 50 years old,” continued the singer.

TheBelmonts 400

The Belmonts


Although some groups had members who studied music, many were just natural singers inviting their buddies to band together to harmonize, each being assigned a specific part. “All you needed was 2 or 3 of your buddies to get together and chimed up as they called it. We would use a simple harmony like 1, 3, 5. Street corner songs like In the Still of the Night and Hushabye were the types of songs we sang,” remarked the vocalist.

Groups sang songs that were fun to sing and simple in structure, making it appealing and easy for street corner pickup groups to do. That was the generation of groups like the Duprees, the Vogues and the Lettermen, etc., who evolved rhythms into more sophisticated harmonies later on.

The Platters

The Platters

Tesla agreed many were influenced by the music from church. “I remember vividly when growing up standing outside a Black Church that was around the corner from us. Me and a few of my friends enjoyed listening to that music and felt as if the music absolutely went through our bones because it was so inviting and so emotional. I think it was the springboard to a lot of my appreciation for music,” stated Tony who with his fellow Duprees consisting of Jimmy Spinelli, Tommy Petillo and Phil Granito replaced the original Duprees Joey Van Canzano, Mike Kelly, John Salvato, Tom Bialoglow, Joe Santollo and Mike Arnone, 3 of whom have passed.

“You know the term doo-wop is a bit of a misnomer. The term never came about until way past the 1960s with the advent of multi-act shows through the 70s and into the 80s where they put under this umbrella the term doo-wop. Doo-wop describes the street corner singing. They still use the term widely to tag groups that are not really doo-wop at all,” claims Tesla who also expands on the Duprees musical songbook and variation, thereby recently paying tribute to Frank Sinatra via their current CD entitled “Happy 100th Mr. Sinatra.”

The Duprees made songs famous such as “My Own True Love,” “Take Me As I Am,” “Why Don’t You Believe Me,” “Have You Heard,” “Love Eyes,” “It Isn’t Fair.” “Let Them Talk” and “You Belong to Me.”

Fans interested in hearing my BlakeRadio interview with Tony Tesla can do so via–the-duprees-tony-testa or who wish to purchase tickets to the Doo-wop show hosted by Johnny Z of WFAS 1230AM, and producer Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts can call the box office at 718-960-8833 or go on line via


Hadley Founder turns 100

Hadley Players Founder Turns 100

Hadley Founder turns 100

Hadley Players Founder Gertrude Jeannette turns 100

*The founder of the H.A.D.L.E.Y Players, Gertrude Jeannette, who was born November 28, 1914, celebrated her 100th birthday at the Alhambra Ballroom in Harlem on Sunday, November 30th where theater people, friends, press and community folks came out to honor Gertrude and remember her birthday.

A playwright, actress, director and producer in her own right, Gertrude has appeared on both stage and screen. She appeared on radio and performed on Broadway in Tennessee Williams “Vieux Carre.” Also in “The Skin of our Teeth,” “The Great White Hope,” “Lost in the Stars.” “Amen Corner,” “Nobody Loves an Albatross “and “The Great White Hope,” et al.

In film, Ms. Jeanette was memorable in “The Legend of Nigger Charlie,” “Black Girl,” and appeared in “Shaft,” “and “Cotton Comes to Harlem.”  She has lent her talents to both film shorts and documentaries. A playwright in her own right, Gertrude wrote plays like: A Bolt from the Blue, Light in the Cellar, Glady’s Dilemma, This Way Forward, and Who’s Mama’s Baby, Who’s Daddy’s Child? She has also featured and directed the works of other playwrights.

Gertrude and Hadley Players former Artistic Dir. Ward Nixon

Gertrude and Hadley Players former Artistic Dir. Ward Nixon

Born in Urbana, Arkansas, Gertrude made Harlem, NY, her home. An innovator, in 1935 she became the first woman to get a license to operate a motor cycle and later became the first female cab driver in New York City. Jeannette received the Harlem Business Recognition Award from the National Council of Negro Women. She was honored as a Living Legend by the National Black Theater Festival in Winston Salem, NC . She received the Outstanding Pioneer Award from AUDELCO in 1984. She also received the AT&T and Black American Newspaper 1987 Personality of the Year Award. She was inducted into the Hatch-Billops Oral History Collection by the Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. As well as inducted into Philadelphia’s Bush­fire Theatre Walk of Fame. The Giving Back Corporation endowed her with their 2004 Giving Back Award, and Gertrude was given the 2006 Professional Women’s Award from the Riverside Club/National Negro Business and Professional Women organization. She received the Standing on Our Shoulders Award from the Delta Sigma Theta, Bronx Chapter, and the Lionel Hampton Legacy Award for her outstanding work in the Harlem community.  In 2002, Gertrude Jeannette received the prestigious Paul Robeson Award from Actor’s Equity. She was also honored by Harlem Is…Living History, an educational project by Community Works.

Photographer Ronnie Wright with actress/singer Ebony Jo-Ann

Photographer Ronnie Wright with actress/singer Ebony Jo-Ann

Letters wishing Ms. Jeannette “Happy Birthday” came from Congressman Charles Rangel, Assemblyman Keith Wright, State Senator Bill Perkins and Councilwoman Inez Dickens. The Master of Ceremony was producer Voza Rivers. Ebony Jo-Ann sang “You Will Never Grow Old.”

The Classical Productions led by Patricia Hancock Rogers sang a medley of Gertrude’s favorite songs. The invocation was done by actress, comedian and reverend Dorothy Fox. Among the guests were former HADLEY Players Artistic Director Ward Nixon, actors Albert Eggleston, Ralph McCain, photographer Ronnie Wright, Don Thomas (NY Beacon), Woodie King (New Federal Theater), Patricia White, Elizabeth Van Dyke, David Downing, Hazel Smith, Vinie Burrows, organizer Margaret Jackson, Sirlouis Jones, Shirley Scott, Micki Grant, Mary B. Davis, Johnnie Mae, Joe B. Hunt, Barbara Horowitz, Larry Thorp, June Terry, Janice Jenkins, Louise Mike, Dee Dixon, director Eric Coleman, Margery Johnson, Kimberly Monroe, playwrights Roger Parris and J.E. Franklin.

Friends of Gertrude celebrating her birthday

Friends of Gertrude celebrating her birthday

Many of the attendees have presented their plays and/or appeared in some of the Hadley Productions. Others were supporters and long time friends. People such as actress Joan Valentina, Cherryl Thomas, Ms. Bobbi Willis, Kim Weston-Moran, journalists Joan Allen, Peter Cooper and Michael J. Feeney, actress Johnnie Mae, Tommie Thompson, Kelly Marie Berry, costumer Kathy Roberson, Ed Lawrence, Debbie McIntire, Ajene Washington, Alice Garcia, Michelle Wilson (Ms Jeannette’s great niece), Alvin Alexis, Juanita Howard, Loretta Abbott, and Lillian Harrison came out to celebrate Gertrude’s 100th birthday milestone.

Ms. Jeannette appeared to have a lovely time and invited all her guests back to her 110th birthday party to do it all over again. God willing Gertrude, we’ll all be there.

PJ Allen

Gloria Lynne’s Son Richard Alleyne Dies A Year After His Mother


*Richard Alleyne passed due to cancer complications on Wednesday, October 29, 2014, at 6:45 p.m., in Westwood, New Jersey, at Hackensack University Medical Center at Pascack Valley, after a lengthy illness. Still grieving over the loss of his mother, Mr. Alleyne passed just 1 year and 14 days after his mother, jazz icon, Gloria Lynne’s death on October 15, 2013. Ms. Lynne is best known for her signature song, “I Wish You Love.”

Richard, fondly known to his friends and family as P.J., was born in Harlem, NY, and raised in Englewood, NJ. He was often cared for by his grandmother who nurtured him during those times his mother was performing or touring on the road. In fact, due to his mother’s musical career, P.J., was exposed to the likes of Dizzy Gillespie (who lived around the corner from him), Miles Davis, Quincy Jones who worked with Gloria Lynne on one of her albums, trumpeter Harry “Sweets,” Edison and Lionel Hampton, etc.

P.J. attended Eron Preparatory school and went on to graduate from business school. However, since music was always his passion he pursued music. He appeared on the Apollo Amateur Hour in the 1980’s with his rock band and spent time in California working with rock music. He also tried his hand at acting eventually appearing on TV programs such as “Charlie’s Angels,” “Cagney & Lacey,” et. al.

pj allen and Brian Scott

A musician, composer, producer and arranger in his own right, and a partner with his mother in their company, Family Bread Music, P.J. , helped produce several of his mother’s songs, working on the arrangements of songs like “Mountain Greenery.” PJ was also working with percussionist, music composer and producer, Jay Dittamo, prior to his death on “To Be In Love” and ”I Wish It Would Snow,” the only Christmas song ever sung by his mother, the legendary Gloria Lynne.

Gloria and PJ had many admirers and friends such as Harry Belefonte, Sue Simmons, Aretha Franklin, Bill Cosby, B.B. King, Liza Minelli, David Guest, Dionne Warwick, Smokey Robinson, Valerie Simpson, Chuck Jackson, Lloyd Williams, Ann C. Rubino, Mary Ann Niehaus, Janet Zuckerman, Jimmy Sabini, Geoffrey Eaton, Vince Ector, Roy Merriweather, Wendy Oxenhorn, Abiodun Oyewole, Todd Barkin, Jay Dittamo, Voza Rivers, Billy Mitchell, Congressman Charles Rangel, Percy Sutton, Mayor David Dinkins, East Orange NJ Mayor Robert Bowser, Dr. Ramesh Sawhney, Maxine McCray, Dell Long, Roz Nixon, Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, Catherine Willis, Cobi Narita, Tina Mcrae, Cosmo, Karen Chilton, Grassella Aliphant, Joe Fields, Duke Wade, Tom Daugherty, Robert and Susan Gleason, John DeMartino, Greg Skaff, Leon Dorsey, Deardra Shuler and numerous others.

It was the wish of Mr. Alleyne to be cremated.  At the time of this reporting a Memorial is pending.

Richard Alleyne is survived by an uncle, John Wilson who lives in Yonkers, NY, and 2 step sisters Robin and Carol.

Psychic Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

People of Note: Remembering Psychic Extraordinaire Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

Psychic Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

Psychic Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

*I just learned an extraordinary man whom I met back in the 1990s transitioned on July 4, 2014.

Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery granted me an interview back in the early 1990s. He stayed in contact with me now and then over the years. He saw something about me and future gifts promised, so asked I send him my photo which he put on his altar saying prayers for me. I was grateful he thought enough to do so.

Jewish by religion and born in Kingston, Jamaica, on October 2, 1925, Ernesto Montgomery was the spiritual leader of Beta Israel African-American Jewish Temple in Los Angeles. An exceptional psychic by nature with great gifts of prognostication, Dr. Montgomery told me about 911 years before it happened. He did not call it 911 but merely said he saw an early morning terrorist attack on or near the East River in NYC. It would come suddenly without warning. At the time, it sounded so outlandish, I did not elaborate on it in my article about him. He wanted me to warn the UN but at the time I thought no one would believe me, I could hardly fathom such an attack myself. But as we all know, his prediction came to pass.

He sent me proof of his prediction concerning the death of Princess Di, wherein he warned the Royal Family he saw her death. According to the date on the letter it was a few years before Di’s death and before she left Prince Charles. He showed me the Royal letterhead wherein the Queen Mother thanked him and responded to his warning. Promising him that they would not allow the Princess to be in Paris the month and year he saw her death. However, fate had changed Di’s circumstances and she was no longer married to Charles at the time of her death. Thus was in Paris the month and year Dr. Montgomery predicted she would die in a Paris tunnel.

Ernesto Montgomery was gifted as a child in his native land of Jamaica and became quite well known for his predictions. So much so, he caught the attention of British authorities who approached him at age 16, asking Ernesto to join a secret group of MI-5 psychics using their psychic abilities to spy during WW2. In order to protect their identity Montgomery and the other psychics, (one who later became a very famous author), used code names. Years later, a book was written about Montgomery entitled “Psychic Spy” which accounts his service to Winston Churchhill, Eisenhower,, during WW2. After the war, then Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill presented Montgomery with the British Star, campaign, war and defense medals presented for meritorious army services to the Allied Forces. Ernesto Montgomery’s predictions were essential to D Day and for that reason the Royal Family respected him and knew of his service, so told him they would take his warning about Di seriously.

He mentioned to me at one point that actress Shirley MacLaine had taken an interest in him after learning about his meta physic ministry, healing practices, clairvoyant gifts and astounding predictions.

Shirley MacLaine and Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

Shirley MacLaine and Dr. Ernesto Moshe Montgomery

Given some of the things he told me, I can only say he was a very gifted man. He was humble and kind. He was quite elderly when I first interviewed him and when I called him years later to do another interview, although his spirit was willing, it became clear his advancing age would not allow for a second interview.

A humanitarian at heart, Montgomery was a graduate of the University of Judaism/Department of Continuing Education in Los Angeles,  He was a retired Jamaican police commander who went on to serve in the Los Angeles Police Reserve Corps and on the Newton Street Division Clergy Council of the Los Angeles Police Department.

It seems he slipped from the world in a very quiet fashion, no fanfare or articles acclaiming his unusual powers. Perhaps that is the way he would have wanted it. But when the world has such an unusual man among us, I must at least take this moment to thank him for the gifts he shared with the world. He told me he faced racism and skepticism sometimes. However, his faith in the Divine and the guides and angels that opened his eyes to see, were all he needed to navigate this world. He had a powerful life more extraordinary than most men. He was not rich nor did he use his gifts to become rich or wield power. Perhaps that is what made Montgomery and his psychic gifts so exceptional.

Farewell to you, Dr. Montgomery. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of knowing you and meeting someone of your psychic abilities and great and humble spirit. I know there were those you left behind who loved you and will miss you.  Blessings to your soul as you continue onward in your magnificent journey.

Deardra Shuler is a well published journalist who has profiled celebrities and written about people of note for many years. In addition to her column at, she is the host of her radio show “Topically Yours” on Interested parties can acquire info regarding Deardra through,, Facebook and Google. Contact her via: [email protected].

Marge Champion

People of Note: An Evening with a Champion

Marge Champion with Interviewer Richard Skipper

Marge Champion with Interviewer Richard Skipper

Richard Skipper Photo Credit, Stephen Mosher
Marge Champion Photo from the Marge Champion Photo Collection

*I am in favor of covering the stories of individuals who have been in their careers so long they have made quite a history for themselves and therefore their stories are worth detailing. That is why interviewers like Richard Skipper are important, because he brings people to the fore-front who were the champions of their day, such as 95 year old former dancer, Marge Champion.

An Evening With Marge Champion

The young Marge and Gower Champion

Born in Los Angeles, California in 1919, Marge Champion was the daughter of Ernest and Gladys Baskett. She started dancing at an early age and by 12 became a dance instructor. Walt Disney noticed her and hired her to model as his character Snow White. She later modeled for Disney, posing as Maid Marion via Disney’s animated film, “Robin Hood.” She also posed as the dancing hippo in Disney’s popular film “Fantasia” and modeled as the Blue Fairy in “Pinocchio.” In fact, Gower’s first husband was Art Babbitt a Disney animator who created the Goofy character.  She later married Gower Champion, enjoying a 26 year marriage until they divorced. Her third and last marriage was to actress Katey Segal’s father, director Boris Segal.


The Champion dance team of Gower and Marge Champion made quite the name for themselves in Hollywood circles in the 1940s and 1950s, appearing in musicals such as “Show Boat,” “Everything I Have Is Yours” and “Lovely to Look At.” They did a remake of Roberta in 1935. The team went on to do their own TV situation comedy series entitled The Marge and Gower Champion Show which featured song and dance numbers. Drummer Buddy Rich was featured on the show. Marge appeared in The Red Skelton Hour and years later, appeared in the television program “Fame” and in a Broadway revival of “Follies.” She also co-authored two books with actress Marilee Zdenek, entitled Catch the New Wind and God Is a Verb.

 In 2013, Marge Champion received The Douglas Watt Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fred and Adele Astaire Awards Ceremony.

Ms. Champion will share her long and illustrious career with interviewer Richard Skipper at the Spiral Theater, giving him a rare interview into her life, career and Hollywood history on Sunday, October 5th, beginning with cocktails at 5:00 pm and the actual interview at 5:30 pm. A Meet and Greet will follow.

For tickets call 845-365-0720. Tickets are $35.00. A portion of the proceeds from the evening will go to benefit the Spiral Theater Studio. The Spiral Theater Studio is located at 300 West 43rd Street (off of 8th Avenue), Room 603, in Manhattan. Seating is limited so get your tickets early. An RSVP is highly recommended.

To find out more about the interviewer Richard Skipper, see

If you are interested in Old Hollywood and the stars and movies of that era, you will love this opportunity to meet Ms. Champion. I know I will be there and I hope you will be there, too.

Deardra Shuler is a well published journalist who has profiled celebrities and written about people of note for many years. In addition to her column at, she is the host of her radio show “Topically Yours” on Interested parties can acquire info regarding Deardra through,, Facebook and Google. Contact her via: [email protected].



(An Evening With Marge Champion)